The outlook for colorful fall foliage in the DC area? Not spectacular — and short-lived

We’ve gotten a little taste of fall around the D.C. area lately, meaning leaf peeping season is near. But the area’s drought may have a big impact on how colorful the view will be.

“We’ll definitely see some color. I don’t think it’s going to be a spectacular year, ” said Melissa Nash, a forester in Garrett County, Maryland.

“When we have a dry year, we just don’t see those spectacular bold bright colors.”

Nash explained that a lack of rain stresses the trees, and they don’t hold onto their leaves quite as long, which reduces the chances of bold golden yellow, orange and cranberry hues across the mountains of Maryland.

Nash said we will be able to enjoy some color change this fall, but it won’t come close to normal years, and nowhere near the spectacular show mother nature put on in 2022.

According to Nash, “instead of seeing those colors last, we’re going to see an abrupt change and the leaves are going to fall.”

Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources has just released its “Fall Foliage Forecast.”

Most parts of Maryland aren’t seeing any leaf changes yet.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ first Fall Foliage Report for 2023. (Courtesy Maryland DNR)

In the update, Aaron Cook, the state forester for the Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area, said most of Frederick County’s black gum and sweet birch trees have already lost their leaves due to “drought stress.” They changed colors, and then dropped their leaves.

Nash said in the counties closer to the D.C. area, peak fall colors will hit in late October or early November.

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Kyle Cooper

Weekend and fill-in anchor Kyle Cooper has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years, Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP, Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

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